instyle solar what's wrong with australian power policies (1)

Dipping into government power supply policy can make even the toughest and most resilient of us want to shut down. Firstly, finding the policy in the first place requires a bloodhound level of searching.

Secondly, once found, only the most determined will sift thoroughly through the libraries of political speak to garner any significant understanding. By default, that leaves us, the average Aussie power consumer, a little in the dark. Yes, pun unashamedly intended.

Some of us are confused into a state of apathy. Others simply care less—so long as the telly works in their air-conditioned lounge room, no worries.

Or, for many of us who have green intentions, we really want to know where our government is taking us on power policy. We want to know what it means for us as consumers and what it means for the environment.

The problem is, federal government, state government and the private sector are entwined in what amounts to an avant-garde interpretive dance, with impact cameos from peak bodies such as the AEMC, IEA, ACCC, EUAA and the NEM, to name but a few.

We’re not quite sure who is conducting the orchestra or choreographing the dance, but few in the audience seem to be clapping. How can we, it’s too hard to understand!

A Few Things We Certainly Do Understand

  • Government policy on power affects everybody reliant on the grid—that includes me and you;
  • The policy is formed under the influence of a diverse range of stakeholders; national, global, public and private. Much to your surprise we’re sure, the policy is not simply about your needs and demands as an Australian power consumer;
  • Governments change, and since Howard’s reign, we change quite often in Australia of late. This means that yesterday's policy may well change tomorrow;
  • Regardless of government policy, or indeed because of it, the price of powering our homes and businesses continues to rise significantly.

Before you throw your arms up in frustration and switch off the power at the meter box in protest, take heart—there’s some good news about power and electricity policy, and it’s way easy to understand.

For the last decade or so, Government policy has assured accessibility (and therefore significant uptake) to photovoltaics. Yes, solar power.

The reason we are seeing so many shiny solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses is that government policy has encouraged it.

The Great News

With government policy currently so domestic solar friendly, now is a great time to invest in a solar installation that will satisfy all (or a significant portion) of your power/electricity needs.

An investment now can significantly reduce or even remove your reliance on the grid.

Therefore, we can mitigate against the negative or unpredictable and incomprehensible outcomes of complex government policy.

In short, we can avoid the pain of excessive power prices and any interruption to the power supply, whatever the cause.

Thanks to good, progressive government policy, it is now possible (financially viable) for a great number of us to have complete control of the power we use at home.

Many of us are already aware of this, but the benefits can be so good that it certainly warrants a reminder to all.

There are significant benefits in removing the senator from your meter box.

Why Have the Politics of Power Got So Complicated?

Once upon a not too distant time ago, we didn’t think a great deal about switching the lights on. In recent decades, however, we have become very conscious of it.

Somewhere along the line, everything changed. We began to notice this change in our power bills. Yes, they increased, like…a lot. Suspicious fingers started pointing directly at our political leaders.

Two of the Biggest Changes Complicating Power Policy:

Privatisation and Climate Change

Many of us will remember when electricity was wholly publicly owned.

That is, the generation of power and all the infrastructure that supplied it to our homes was government-controlled.

When we paid our electricity bill, it was to a government department, simple. Boy oh boy, have things changed.

In recent decades, Australians have witnessed the sell-off, or partial sell-off, of institutions such as banks, communications, ports, and yes, electricity generation and supply.

And so, as our politicians sell off our assets to the private sector, seemingly willy-nilly, the debate rages as to the benefit or detriment of such significant public asset divestment.

The government argues that the private sector is better placed to manage and control these institutions; that private sector competition is ultimately better for consumers. The private sector agrees with them, with excited grins and smiling coffers.

The cynic, or the average Australian, argues this is rubbish; that government is simply keen to realise mega lump sums by flogging billion-dollar cash cows, ultimately leading to Aussie families paying more for everything while at the same time losing control of an asset that is ultimately theirs.

We don’t want to enter this debate here in this article—that would be too much like talking politics. There’d be tears, people would storm out of the dining room, the dog would be kicked, and a certain someone would have to sleep on the lounge tonight.

Whether privatization is beneficial or regretful is very difficult to argue. Both sides will use the empirical data very convincingly to assure the strength of position.

Privatization was, and indeed still is a very complex affair, and it’s just one of the many political policies that influence the supply of electricity to we the people.

Privatisation and the Outcome for Us

Privatization of electricity supply is a frustration for many of us. We now have to fight it out with power retailers. We now have to compare prices and services. It’s fair to assume that this is a hassle and expense we really didn’t want.

We were assured by the government that private power would be better for us. It’s difficult to understand how, and it is hard not to be cynical.

For the conscientious, for those of us who really want value for money and want to understand what they’re paying, to whom and for what, significant effort is required to wade through the subtle variations in power retail services.

Electricity now costs us more and requires greater effort and understanding. While there is a convincing argument suggesting privatization and electricity price increase is not cause and effect, public perception leans toward the contrary. (Here’s an article to shed some light on privatisation.)

Want to avoid the argument? Install solar and significantly reduce your reliance on the grid.

The Second Big Change was/is Climate Change, or Global Warming

There’s little reason to dwell on this. We’re browbeaten already. Implementing provision for the mitigation of the effects of climate change is now part of the national (global) psyche.

The dramatic effects of climate change are the key drivers of Australia’s renewables policy.

We have no desire to review or appraise the Australian policy performance in this highly volatile subject. That’s not the aim here.

The aim is to demonstrate, in as simple a way possible, that getting your power from the grid is underpinned by a multitude of complexities.

At the risk of stating the obvious, much of the power policy affecting us now is a result of the recognised changes in climate, and the need to implement a national policy to combat the potentially catastrophic results of rampant CO2 emissions.

Developing policy in this area is an extremely tricky game. Our government must balance the demands of Australian economic interest with binding international global accords about emission reductions.

They must develop a policy that services its citizens, its big business (resource mining), and international accords while delivering economic growth and carbon emission reductions to specified targets. Problem is, there is significant conflict between desired outcomes of all stakeholders.

Australia is an exporter of prodigious volumes of fossil fuels, most notably, thermal coal. This further complicates our position; our carbon footprint is very high. This means we need to do more, be smarter, and be more innovative to reduce emissions.

This reduction process requires massive investment and innovation. Complexity is further exacerbated by a set of economic imperatives that make a change to renewables hard.

Mining is a huge employer and a huge revenue raiser for Australia. Our economy relies heavily on the proceeds of the international sales of carbon-heavy resources such as thermal coal.

Miners want to mine more, obviously, and there are countless lucrative holes left to be dug in Australia. Our government enjoys the easy revenue from this. Mining, however, is in radical conflict with our carbon emission reduction commitments.

How can the mining sector experience growth (growth being an absolute necessity for mining survival) when government policy should be designed to reduce our reliance on mining? Australia, the home of the duopoly, faces a complex dichotomy. Stands to reason, doesn’t it.

We rely heavily on carbon-producing income streams, yet we know full well that this is not sustainable, and we must resource renewables. This is expensive. And yes, we the people are paying for it. It is reflected in our power bills.

This example above is highly simplified to illustrate a point without making you all bored. The point is that power policy introduction, consistency and evolution is profoundly complex, and if you’re on the grid, you are directly affected.

Climate Change Policy and the Outcome for Us

Let’s make this concise.

Amidst the crazy aforementioned policy complexity, we have a very clear outcome. Right now, government policy has delivered the means for cost-effective installation of solar power at your house.

Installing it now, as we have said earlier, will decrease the impact of government policy on your supply of electricity. This will save you money and increase your self-reliance and power self-determination.

Another Little Example of Power Policy and How it Impacts You

You might have read or heard about gas shortages in Australia. Regardless of Australians being able to swim in the stuff, this supposedly inexpensive, abundant, cleaner resource is in radically short supply for domestic users. And it’s driving prices through the roof.

Why, we hear you ask? Here’s an article to get you up to speed.

In short, government policy, or lack thereof, has seen the prodigious volumes of gas mined locally exported elsewhere. Great news for the private sector coffers and government revenue, but with the lion’s share of the mined spoils exported for profit, there’s little left for us.

It’s no wonder the locals are fuming. Many Australians chose gas for cheaper power and more environmentally friendly credentials. Hmmmm, the impacts of policy.

So, to avoid cold showers due to unaffordable or non-existent gas, a solar installation, free from grid influence, would render this little story as another little annoying footnote in a growing list of government “what the…?”

Conclusion

There are two very convincing, no-brainer arguments for installing solar power at your place. The first is that an investment in quality photovoltaics and their peripherals will save you money. Often, a heck of a lot. In some circumstances, it may even earn you money.

The second, the moral imperative if you like, is that solar will reduce your carbon emissions. For a growing number of informed, environmentally conscious Australians, this is the primary driving factor for installing solar. People genuinely wish to reduce their carbon emission for a ‘greener’ earth.

Following these two great motivators comes another. Power self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-determination, and relative freedom from the machinations of government policy and intervention.

Those who reduce their reliance on external sources of power, i.e., the grid, also mitigate against the significant influence of variable, ever-changing and unpredictable government policy on power. We’re not suggesting you head the way of the ‘Preppers’ and abandon the grid entirely.

We’re not predicting government power policy will initiate rampant descension into anarchy or zombie invasion.

We’re simply stating that an efficient solar power system installed at your place will provide you with so much more than cheaper power.

It will provide you with the ability to look after your own power needs, relatively free from the unpredictable impacts of government policy and the needy cries of their mining mates.

Do yourself a favour and get the senator out of your meter box.

Next Step

If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!

Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.

Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

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